The 9 Secrets to Finding Cheaper Air Fares

9 Secrets

The era of cheap air travel is over, but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t find deals. It takes patience and planning but there are steps you can take to find a deal that will fit your budget.

  1. Buy Early: Especially during peak travel periods, making reservations late can cost you a lot of money. Airline tickets typically go up in the last two weeks before flying, so if you’re planning ahead, try to make the call before this deadline. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to book earlier — from three to six months in advance — for the best deals.
  1. Buy Late: Often you can buy tickets at the very last minute for a great price, if the airlines have failed to fill their planes. Many airlines offer weekly emails that feature their best last-minute deals. You can also find deals at specialized sites like .
  1. Shop Around: No matter how good it sounds, you should never book the first fare you find. Start your search by checking a few of the major online travel providers, like , aggregator sites like Trip Advisor, or consolidators like . Checking these sites gives you an idea which airlines fly your particular itinerary, what the going rate is and what restrictions might apply. With this information, you can head directly to the airline website to see if the same flights are any cheaper (some airlines guarantee to offer the lowest possible fares on their sites). While you’re there, check to see if the airline is running any sales or promotions to your destination.
  1. Know When to Commit: The hardest part of booking a flight is knowing when to stop tracking fares and make that final purchase. If you’re flying within the U.S. or to select international destinations, try , which offers fare history graphs for domestic and international flights. This will show you if your fare is headed up or down.
  1. Be Flexible: If you live close to more than one airport, check the fares from all of the airports near you. Many online fare search engines will ask you if you are willing to depart from or arrive in more than one city. Always say yes. Also, try changing your travel dates. Moving your itinerary by a month, a week or even a few days can make a big difference in fares. You’ll usually find the lowest fares for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.Keep in mind that just about every destination has a peak season — and if you can fly any other time of year, you’ll often pay less.
  1. Don’t Forget the Discounters: As their nickname suggests, discount airlines can save you a bundle, but they’re not always easy to find. Luckily for consumers, discounters are cropping up more frequently on aggregators and booking sites. Kayak now offers fares for JetBlue, Spirit and AirTran. There are still a few holdouts, such as Southwest and Allegiant Air, whose fares can’t be found anywhere but on their own websites.
  1. Use Your Frequent Flier Miles: Why pay a fare at all when you can use your frequent flier miles? Although redeeming miles has gotten much more difficult in recent years, it’s still a good option to consider, particularly if you’re booking early; airlines designate a very limited number of seats on each flight as eligible for award travel, and these seats go quickly.
  1. Get a Refund When Fares Go Down: If fares go down after you’ve purchased your ticket, ask for a refund! You may not always get one, but policies vary by airline — and many do not publicize the fact that they will refund you the difference if prices go down. It can’t hurt to ask.
  • will track flights for you after you purchase and notify you if the fares go down.
  • has a Price Assurance guarantee, which entitles you to a refund if another Orbitz user books the same itinerary for less.
  1. Consider an Air Pass: In order to promote tourism in their countries, many national airlines offer air passes at reduced rates for tourists. If you’re planning to do extensive travel in one country or region, an air pass might be your most cost-effective option. For example, Qantas offers an Aussie AirPass for travel throughout Australia. Planning an even bigger trip? Look into around-the-world tickets and fares.